BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) — Bristol, Virginia city leaders are moving forward with plans to close its problematic landfill, but said the landfill’s odor and elevated temperatures issues must be fixed before that can happen.

City Manager Randall Eads said at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting the city should meet a July 6 deadline to submit a plan of action to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

That’s after DEQ issued several recommendations for odor mitigation and eventual closure in an expert panel report on the landfill.

Eads said it could take up to a year of data collection and testing before fully implementing those recommendations.

He warned concerned residents that early closure could result in catastrophe.

“If we close it before it gets under control, we’re doing nothing but creating an environmental disaster for this city to deal with 10 years from now,” Eads said.

Eads said it is unclear when the landfill could stop trash intake.

After receiving the expert panel recommendations in April, the city and its landfill consultant, SCS Engineering, are still processing the report.

Bristol, Virginia Vice-Mayor Neal Osbourne said that’s by design. He said the city has to take its time and close the landfill properly.

“We need to be very careful with how we make our first move. You don’t want to jump in halfway and do something wrong,” Osbourne said.

Residents still report the strong odor that has invaded their homes and places of business for a year and a half, and they want the city to take action now.

“Maybe some people’s thinking things are starting to look better, not smelling as bad. I don’t know what part of town they’re in,” said Bristol, Virginia resident Chris Knupp.

Among DEQ’s recommendations, fixing the landfill sidewall liner, applying a geosynthetic cover over the landfill and making improvements to gas extraction wells. All of those are designed to let less gas out of the landfill.

HOPE for Bristol Secretary Becky Evenden called on city leaders to implement a wide-ranging approach.

“If you only sink money into gas wells without getting a geomembrane on top, I believe you’ll see expensive gas wells fail again and again,” Evenden said.

Eads said each item in the city’s plan of action must be approved by DEQ before implementation.

He said new systems would be tested on a small scale before being applied to the entire landfill.

“It may take us an additional one, two, three or four times to get a solution that works best for that sidewall liner,” Eads said.

The city’s bill for implementing new strategies is still unknown.

Osbourne said the city could dip into alternative funding sources to pay for the landfill fixes and closure.

“We have some federal funds set aside via ARPA, the American Recovery Plans,” Osbourne said. “In future fiscal years, it may be something that we end up having to fund partly with casino revenue.”

During public comment, Knupp and Evenden called on Bristol, Virginia to better communicate with citizens about actions taken inside the landfill.

DEQ recommended the city improve community outreach in its expert panel report.